Plus QUT’s frank (frankly frank) case for changing HR

Union urges unis to follow Deakin’s lead

VU in the red: the university says it face a $30m shortfall this year

and the budget blow you haven’t heard of: enabling education cops major change


Good enough to read

This year’s University of Melbourne Library edible book competition winners are announced with Louise Craven creating a chocolatey cover for Paula Hawkins, Into the Water and Kathryn Lindsay cooking up an author pic for Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. The People’s Choice prize went to Donna McRostie for her confectioner’s cot for Hans Christen Andersen’s story, “The Princess and the Pea.” TV competitive cooking show producers form an orderly queue.

 Bouquet for Birmingham

The government’s review of Higher Education Participation and Partnership Programme made the case for it continuing, according to Universities Australia, which “commends the Turnbull Government for not only adopting the review’s key recommendation to retain HEPPP but in moving to protect its future through legislation.”

The review (CMM Monday) identified 2679 HEPP projects across 37 universities, engaging 310 000 students between 2010 and 2015 . Some 40 per cent plus of programmes and funding supported low SES students starting, studying, and completing university. Close to 20 per cent of funding was allocated to work with students who are both Indigenous and from low SES backgrounds.

“There is a deep desire to safeguard this program because of the powerful role it plays in transforming lives through higher education and creating opportunity,” UA CEO Belinda Robinson says.

The HEPPP decision was one of the bits of the budget the sector liked, with just about everybody who has criticised the cuts endorsing Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s decision to protect the programme.

 Where’s Glyn going?

Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis confirmed his long-announced departure from the University of Melbourne at the end of ’18 (CMM yesterday). But while we know what he will do next, teaching, writing research, where will he do it? Perhaps at UniMelbourne, learned readers suggested yesterday what with his writing. “I treasure my 12 years at this extraordinary place and look forward to the times still ahead”. But no, the university advises thatthere is no assumption in the announcement – the VC does not have a continuing appointment at Melbourne.”

Big change for enabling educ

There are big changes for uni-prep programmes buried in the budget, with the 10 000-place enabling programme moving from load to user-pays. According to David Bull from the National Association of Enabling Educators, the result will be that “the most financially needy higher education students are significantly deterred from enrolling in higher education.”

Under the new arrangement students will be charged the $3200 the government now pays the 33 participating institutions for each supported student. Universities also receive “the subsidy appropriate to the Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding cluster.  Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s reform package justifies the change because 52 per cent of 2014 publicly funded enabling students went on to university the next year, compared to 61 per cent of domestic enabling students in fee-paying courses, at the nine institutions that offer them.

In line with its plan for contestable equity funding (CMM Monday) the government also intends to end the existing allocation of places by institution. From 2019 they will be provided for three years via competitive tender. While the government is addressing the uniprep market by adding sub-degree courses to funded load Mr Bull still warns; “in the ‘rush to the bottom’ of a tender process, existing providers of enabling courses look set to suffer from a significant decline in serving many of their current constituents.”

“This will particularly harm those regional institutions, who are often the major providers of enabling programs; institutions that serve demographic regions with high proportions of low SES, Indigenous and regional and remote students,” he says.

Broad acre visionaries

There is nothing WA vice chancellors like more than property development (well, perhaps a staffer winning a Nobel Prize). The state’s public universities were all gifted lots of land when established but forbidden to use it for anything other than education, until legislation changed last year. Curtin is well underway with a major development and UWA and Murdoch have plans and now CMM hears Edith Cowan U is set on developing office space on 9 hectares at its Joondalup campus. Now what was that Simon Birmingham was saying about universities making money?


QUT makes a frank case for change

QUT is commencing what it calls a “large-scale transformation” in service delivery with a new structure proposed for human resources – the reason why is frankly expressed, to say the least. Apparently change is needed because of ; “unclear accountability, inconsistent services, inequity of resourcing, lack of transparency, lack of alignment of purpose and activity and duplication of activity,” and a “growing capability gap between the current staff profile and future workforce requirements.”

There are, “low levels of automation and digitisation creating higher costs and poor user experience, thereby creating the need to significantly invest in HR process and systems,” university management warns.

The new central structure will include strategic services, staff management and client contact, but while staff will transfer to HR some will be outposted in operating units.

At this stage, no positions appear at risk however management is not ruling it out if the restructure creates a case for further change.

Tough times at VU

Just how hard are the times at Victoria University? Tough and getting tougher, according to Provost Kerri-Lee Krause in  evidence before the Fair Work Commission. The campus branch of the NTEU had asked the commission to stay management offering redundancies and hiring staff for its new first year college.  In reply Professor Krause advised the FWC that the university has made a loss in four of the last five years with an estimated “shortfall” of $30m this year.

According to FWC deputy president Hamilton, Professor Krause added that the first-year college plan is important to attracting new students, and that “a delay could threaten the introduction of the First-Year College which is important to the university’s strategy for dealing with its financial predicament.”

The commission knocked the union application back, making this a win for VU but at the price of again admitting the mess it is in.


More like Deakin please, says union

While the university IR lobby hopes last week’s enterprise bargaining deal at Deakin U did not set a precedent ( CMM May 17), union leaders hope it will. While the pay settlement was way short of what the National Tertiary Education Union wanted, the union had a win with the way Deakin declined to go hard and demand stripped-down conditions, especially on misconduct matters. Which is what the public universities in WA are doing and which the union is keen on discrediting. Thus, NTEU WA state secretary Gabe Gooding says the proposed deal (staff are yet to vote) at Deakin, “is an example that vice chancellors do not have to be tarred with the same, unhelpful, ideological brush that the Australian Higher Education Association is exercising during the bargaining at some Western Australian universities.”

Not that the public universities in the golden west are proposing glittering pay rises that match Deakin’s 9 per cent over the next three years for a worker on the university’s average income (CMM May 16). The University of Western Australia is offering a 6.5 per cent increase over 4 years, Curtin U, 5.25 per cent over four and Edith Cowan U just 3.75 percent. What also upsets the union is the way they are demanding short and simple statements of workers’ rights and their protection.

Murdoch U is playing especially hard, hard-ball, seeking to cancel the now expired agreement, until a new one is complete. Industry practise is to leave old agreements, and their terms and conditions in place, until new deals are done. There is no indication Murdoch is doing this to cut staff pay (it could without an agreement) but to pressure the union. The Fair Work Commission is expected to hear the dispute in July but the union is likely hoping for more agreements like Deakin’s before then, especially in the west. Observers suggest that a deal at UWA is most likely.